Finding A Job After College – 10 Things Your Recent College Graduate Doesn’t Want to Hear

I came across this great article on CNN.com about 5 things not to say to new college graduates and I was inspired to build upon it. Instead of 5 phrases to avoid—I’ve got 10. And I heard many of them when I graduated in 2009. Take notes, parents. This little list could save you from having an awkward conversation with your recent college graduate (and possibly even a fight).

 

Here are my 10 Conversation No-No’s with your recent college graduate:

1. “You’ll find something!”

Despite your good intentions, this mild attempt at reassurance won’t be very convincing. Consider beefing up your statement with, “New positions are posted online all the time. Have you signed up to receive daily job notifications yet? Something is sure to pop up soon.”

2. “Tonight at 10 there’ll be a special on the most in-demand careers of the year on TV. Make sure you watch it.”

If your kid is a graduate they probably have a degree in their field of interest and specific career goals in mind. So if you think about it—how beneficial will this news report be now that they’ve graduated? There’s nothing wrong with bringing the special to your child’s attention, but try to be mindful of how you do it.

3. “Maybe if you’d majored in [insert major] like I told you to, you wouldn’t be scrambling for work.”

This is water under the bridge. There’s no going back now. And sure, your kid might have a job if they’d followed your advice, but would they be happy at work? Maybe…but maybe not.

4. “Do you have a job lined up?”

If they did, you’d probably know. Very few firms hire seniors before graduation, so more times than not, the answer to this question is going to be negative. Save your son or daughter the potential embarrassment and skip this question.

5. “[Insert restaurant] has a sign in the window—they’re hiring for summer. I picked up an application for you.”

If it’s only been a few days or even weeks since your child walked off with their diploma (and they’re doing okay financially), consider cooling your jets. Finding a full-time job takes time. Suggesting temporary, part-time work so soon may (unintentionally) suggest that you’ve already lost hope in their job search.

6. “What about your friend, [insert friend’s name]? She/he has a job.”

There could be a multitude of reasons why your kid’s friends are gainfully employed and they’re not. Maybe their friends have connections. Maybe they’re in an in-demand field. Maybe the job market isn’t as competitive where they’ve been applying.

7. “My [insert relative] just graduated, and she’s doing great!

It’s awesome that you know graduates who are excelling despite the dismal economy, but you may be scaring your child with their enviable success stories. They may prefer to go on thinking that everyone is as lost as they are. So in this case, pass along said relative’s contact information (if your child doesn’t already have it) and suggest they find out what worked for them in their job search.

8. “What can you do with that degree?”

Even if you’re truly not sure what the career path for a certain degree is, don’t ask this question this way. If you do, you risk sounding judgmental. Instead, try spinning it like this: “Pardon my ignorance, but what types of jobs do people with that degree end up having? What are you looking to get into?”

9. “If you can’t find a job, maybe you should go to grad school.”

If your kid doesn’t have any real, non-internship work experience yet, this may not be such a stellar idea. How do they know they want to invest more money into a field they’re not even sure will pan out for them?

10. “Why don’t you see if [insert company name] is hiring? I hear that’s a good place to work.”

Most companies aren’t always hiring—regardless of how well they’re doing. And when they are, there’s a chance it won’t be for jobs in your kid’s field. Kudos for inspiring your child to expand their search, but realize that they may have already checked the company’s website—and determined they’re not qualified for the current posted positions.

You may want to consider forwarding this list to your friends, relatives and fellow college parents—especially if you plan on throwing a graduation party for your son or daughter. Think about it: You now know what not to say, but that doesn’t mean loopy Aunt Ann knows. She may pull a, “Do you have a job lined up?” and put a damper on your recent college graduate’s celebration day.

Moments

“It shines like a little diamond … this moment.”

Jean Paul Sartre

 

Some moments are so incredible, you just want to hold onto them. Eight years ago, when my daughter was just eight years old, I had one of these spectacular moments. At her dance studio, every once in a while, they ask the dads to do a dance with their daughters. It takes a lot of practice – a lot! – and at the end you get to perform the dance in front of a crowd at the Spring dance recital.

It was a ton of fun, devoting several weeks’ worth of Sunday nights to learning this dance with my daughter, shopping for just the right pair of Chuck Taylors to complete my costume, and altogether enjoying this special experience with my little girl. It gives us dads a brand new appreciation for all the work our kids go through; so much work, so much to remember and get just right.

Recital weekend included two performances. The first show I was nervous, a little tight, and probably too focused on getting every step exactly right to really enjoy myself. But with that show under my belt, going through the second show much more confidently, it was thrilling. And that’s when the moment that shone like a diamond came, my daughter smiling, her beautiful red hair flying, such exhilaration in knowing we’d done it, we’d actually done it – that truly rare moment of pure joy instantly collided with an overwhelming longing, as the very core of my being cried out in a desperate prayer, “Oh God, please don’t let this end!”

I was so proud of us, so happy for my daughter, so satisfied that all of our hard work had paid off, but I didn’t want the music to stop. Now fast-forward eight years – she’s rounding the corner on her Junior year in high school, starting campus visits, and I’m overwhelmed by this feeling again. I’m so proud of her, so impressed with all of her hard work, and can see the payoff coming. But at the same time it’s so hard, this yearning for my little girl to stay little just a bit longer.

The day came to visit a campus out of state, and my wife and daughter took the train. When I dropped them off at the station, I lingered a while and watched them on the platform. There was my daughter smiling, her beautiful red hair reflecting the sunrise and fluttering in the breeze – taking her first steps on an adventure that will take her who knows where. It was another moment shining like a little diamond, pride colliding with apprehension, satisfaction intermingling with heartache. An incredible, spectacular gift.

What moments in your college kids’ lives shine like little diamonds for you?

How I Cured My Homesickness

(An Actual Photo I Sent My Mom)

A picture is worth a thousand words. A sad picture is worth a thousand more. I sent my mom an “I’m miserable” email my first month of college and attached this photo to it. She still brings this email up from time to time. It’s something she wasn’t expecting and wasn’t sure how to respond to—her unhappy ‘little girl’ was miles away and she felt helpless.

I didn’t really think about how this email would affect my mom when I pushed ‘send.’ I should have. The first few months of college were difficult and I constantly asked myself—and my parents—‘Did I make the right decision?’ However, that email was a bit melodramatic. Sorry, mom.

You may receive a few sad messages during the first semester, but if your child is anything like me, he or she is probably exaggerating how ‘bad’ things really are. It’s important to take these messages seriously, but stay positive and remember things will get better.

To help make your kid’s college transition a little less painful:

  • Reassure them that they’ve made a good decision.
    • Your kid may doubt his or her college choice, this is common, but you need to be the voice of reason. If these thoughts still exist after the first year, then consider transferring schools. A few months, though, is too soon—in my opinion—to know whether or not you’ve chosen the college that’s right for you.
  • Pop a card in the mailbox.
    • Cards may be cliché but they’re much appreciated. You’re guaranteed a smile when your kid checks the mailbox and is surprised to see it’s not empty.
  • Suggest getting involved on campus.
    • I was super shy until I joined a sorority my second semester freshmen year. Sometimes all it takes is joining an organization or becoming a member of a club to feel more “at home” on campus.
  • Send care packages.
    • Guys and girls get giddy when they get a note saying there’s a package waiting for them in the mailroom. My guy friends loved when their moms would send homemade chocolate chip cookies and silly gifts…it’s the little things that’ll make a big difference.
  • Act busy. Pretend you are even if you aren’t.
    • This one’s tough. The idea of coming home every weekend will be less appealing if your kid feels like he or she won’t get to spend much, if any, time with you. As much as you want to see your kid—it’s better they spend weekends at school where they can build friendships.

Dealing with an anxious college freshman isn’t going to be easy, but it’s better than dealing with the alternative. Approximately one in four students will drop out of college their first year1—you can help stop your kid from traveling down that path. It just takes a little TLC…and a bit of patience.

Helping combat college stress is all part of being a parent, but knowing how to identify normal college stress vs. depression is even more useful.

Now keep in mind, this was my own experience with the freshman year blues. Everyone’s different. Take a look at these symptoms of depression and see if your child is experiencing something more serious than stress and homesickness. And if they are experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure they seek help immediately at their campus counseling center.

 

1 Whitbourne, Jonathan. (2007). The Dropout Dilemma. http://moneymanagement.unt.edu/pdf/documents/dropout.pdf

How to Stop Arguing with Your College Kid

Here’s a situation that may sound familiar: While helping your college kid pack, you present them with a small first aid kit you put together and begin pointing out certain things. You didn’t know it, but you just hit a soft spot. “I got you a thermometer just in case you…” and your son cuts you off with, “Just in case what, Mom? I’m not a baby—if I need this stuff, I’ll get it myself.”

He storms out of the room and a mound of unpacked supplies surrounds you as you think, “I don’t understand what just happened—I was only trying to help.” According to Psychotherapist, F. Diane Barth, LCSW, in her Psychology Today article, this is extremely common, though often completely unexpected, behavior:

“Just when you are feeling sad and vulnerable about the upcoming separation from your beloved child, it seems like anything you say or do can provoke a fight. You feel like an innocent victim of your almost college student’s unpredictable irritability.”

It’s important to remember that much of this arguing is just your kid’s way of managing their conflicting feelings about leaving home for college, says Barth. There’s a good chance your kid isn’t sure how to balance all the confusing emotions they’re feeling: excitement, fear, anxiety, doubt, stress. They may be eager to leave, so they start bickering with those they’re closest to—namely their parents. Aren’t you lucky?

There is, however, another reason for all this arguing that Barth brought to mind: parents’ envy. You might not realize you’re doing it, but thinking things like, “My kid’s life is just beginning and mine feels like it’s coming to an end,” is an indication that you may be a bit envious. And that’s ok. You just need to learn to better manage your feelings about your kid leaving home for college and filter your thoughts.

Now that you know conflict is a normal, yet painful, part of the leaving home for college process, how do you deal with it? We’ve pulled a few tips on how to stop arguring with your college kid from Barth’s article and added a few of our own to help you set realistic boundaries while arguing:

  1. Cruelty is not allowed. Neither are interruptions.
  2. Listen to one another. Don’t just pretend to.
  3. Take turns. Try not to dominate the disagreement.
  4. Compromise is key: be willing to give a little to get a little.
  5. Make up (over and over and over again).
  6. Apologize if you feel you’ve crossed the line.
  7. Accept apologies and don’t hold grudges.
  8. Refrain from resurrecting past arguments.

The good news? This type of arguing usually tapers off with time. Give your kid a few weeks to adjust to college life and we bet you’ll spend less time bickering—and more time laughing—with your child. Well, that is at least until Midterm Week…

Tell us your thoughts: Did you argue with your kid as they were getting ready to head off to school?

Why Your College Kid ‘UnFriended’ You on Facebook

I know this is going to be hard to hear and may sting a little, but your college kid really doesn’t want to be Facebook friends. Sure, she may say she does and will gladly accept your Facebook invite. Yet deep down, she knows it’s only a matter of time before you post something on her wall, or comment on a photo, that will lead to you being banned from her Facebook page.

Hey, it happens—a lot. As parents, it’s only natural to want to be part of our kid’s life when they’re away at school. We miss them! And Facebook is a wonderful way to get a glimpse into their new world of friends and fun. The trouble starts when we don’t like what we see.

It could be a photo of their messy dorm room. A racy remark about a party they were at last night. Or a status update about how they’re feeling crummy. When we are privy to this kind of info, our instincts kick in and we make a Facebook comment—we just can’t help ourselves.

But when your kid (and their friends) reads things like, “OMG sweetie, hope u feel better!” or “Looks like someone needs to clean their messy room,” we are just asking to be unfriended on Facebook.

Here’s the other revelation I recently had: We are not as cool as we think we are. Try as we might, we can’t always pull off the LOL and the U ROCK. We’re not in our kid’s social circle, and it’s easy to embarrass them when we attempt to sneak in.

So if you have been “dumped” by your son or daughter on Facebook, don’t feel bad. It happens to the best of us. I even came across an interesting blog at Forbes.com that talks about why many of the younger users are leaving Facebook because too many parents are invading their space. You can read the blog here.

If you are still clinging to your “friends” status with your college kid, don’t blow it! You can be a quiet observer by resisting your urge to react to every little Facebook status update your kid makes or photo she posts. And if you do see something that worries you, pick up the phone instead of writing it on the wall. Who knows, it could save your Facebook relationship with your college kid.

Winter Break: How to Steer Clear of the Cold Shoulder

I remember when my son Matt came home for winter break his freshman year of college. It was such an exciting time: it was the holidays, he survived his first semester (and so did I) and he was going to be home for a whole month. I couldn’t wait.

Then, after about a week into his break, I couldn’t wait until he went back to college.

It sounds harsh—cruel even. But I wasn’t really prepared for the new, college Matt. After all, he was home for Thanksgiving and we didn’t have any problems. Then I realized this break was different because he was home longer, and he had been away at college longer. That combo spelled trouble.

Moms, dads, if your college kid is heading home for their first long break—be prepared. By knowing what to expect, you can avoid fights and just might have a wonderful winter break.

So what can you expect?

Here’s a little glimpse of what could happen and how to overcome obstacles using these easy parenting tips:

They want sleep time, you want family time

Sure, you have to let them unwind for the first couple of days back. After that, you want them up and moving! This is where the problem comes in. You don’t want to nag, but you can’t let them sleep the day away. You have to find a balance. Maybe let them sleep in a little later, and make plans to do things together later in the day—that way everyone’s happy.

You assume you’ll still enjoy all the holiday traditions together

We had a bunch of holiday traditions we’d like to do with the kids, like cutting down our tree and going down to see the windows on State Street. I thought my son would still want to do everything with us and maybe he did, but he also had to make time for his friends. Don’t be too disappointed if all your family traditions don’t stay in tact.

Your college kid talks to his college friends the entire time they’re home

The good thing is your son or daughter made friends and misses them. The bad thing? These new friends are eating up your precious time together. Remind yourself that your college kid has a new life, and you can’t expect them to leave it all behind just because they’re spending time at home.

You plan family outings without clearing it with your kid

I was certainly guilty of this. Let’s see a movie and grab a pizza…go ice skating…hit the mall…have a family game night—I had it all planned out in my head. I just forgot to run it by Matt, and was a little hurt when he had other plans. If you want to plan things to do as a family when your college kid is home, talk to them about it so they can work something out with their friends.

Their new college dorm habits create havoc at home

Know how nice and clean their room has been since they’ve been gone? Well, that’s all over now—Matt’s room turned into a giant laundry pit in about two seconds. Things are going to get a bit messy when your kid returns, so it’s easiest to accept that and make sure they understand they have to live with your rules while they’re home. You should cut them some slack, but don’t let them destroy your clean house!

Your college kid’s first winter break can be a bit challenging, for you and them. If you keep communication open and work together, you can make the most of their time at home—without killing each other.

This is just one mom’s point of view.
Do you have any winter break stories to share? We’re all ears!

There’s No Place Like Home During College Break

As Thanksgiving approaches, you may be thinking about what could be your kid’s first visit home since they left for college. For freshmen, the first couple of months away may have been their first glimpse of freedom. And for those in their latter years, coming home for the holidays already means competing agendas, overbooked schedules and familial conflict. So it’s important to acknowledge the potential change in expectations of both you and your kid. Here’s what to expect when your child comes home for the holidays:

Here’s What to Expect When Your Child Comes Home for the Holidays

Your kid is excited to see you…and their friends.
It’s funny how it works. As soon as they walk in the door, their cell phone (or even your home phone) starts ringing off the hook. How could this be? They just got home! Coming home from college is a time for family, but it’s also your kid’s chance to see their high school friends. Let your child know (as soon as you know) what’s on your family’s agenda. That way, they can plan their college break accordingly. Crisis averted.

Their schedule is not your schedule anymore.
When your college kid comes home for the holidays, don’t expect them to follow the usual routine. Not only will they be hanging out with friends, your kid will also spend their holiday break eating at all kinds of different times and sleeping until noon (to recharge their batteries from a stressful string of midterm exams).

A college break is just that—a break from daily responsibilities.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your child would still help with the dishes or mow the lawn when home from college? Well, doing household chores is probably not on their priority list. Your son or daughter is dealing with the college stress and their own responsibilities tied to the new dorm or apartment on campus. They may need to be reminded that your household’s long-standing common courtesies are still in place, but giving them a little slack may not be a bad idea either.

“There’s no place like home.” Do they mean our house or their dorm room?
We know, it hurts. After what you thought was a fun holiday visit, you hear the words come out of their mouths: “I can’t wait to get back home.” Your college kid is going through a critical time of self-exploration while adjusting to a brand new lifestyle on campus. They’re trying to find out where they fit in the world, so don’t take it personally if they consider their new town or city “home”.

That first college break at home is quite a milestone. Things have changed and you both know it, so focus on your happiness in having them home and set the tone for good future visits. And remember to be thankful that they wanted to come home at all—some college kids don’t.

Tips for Maintaining a Strong Sibling Relationship During College

Is your child missing their college sibling? Are they having trouble adjusting to the new family dynamic? Like you, they’re probably feeling the change, and the loss of the sibling bond, as well—but they may not be as vocal about it.

While researching this topic, I came across an article on how college often improves sibling relationships  — and I’d have to agree with the author and Washington University alum, Sarah Baicker.

My brother was starting high school when I was starting college, so we were both experiencing big changes, but the new breathing room between us made way for a better relationship with fewer arguments. Dr. Baum-Baicker, a clinical psychologist, puts it best:

 “Sibling relationships in adulthood tend to mirror what they were in childhood. It’s like a rubber band. If the relationship was good in childhood, it will snap back.”

 

My relationship with my brother definitely snapped back when I started school. Soon I was sending him facebook messages, and he’d email me his favorite youtube videos. The first few months, I’d even call him just to see how my parents were holding up without me at home. It’s important to keep this in mind though:

“If the relationship in childhood wasn’t close, it will probably become distant after the college transition,” said Dr. Baum-Baicker.

 

To help your children maintain a good sibling relationship while one is in college, shoot this article their way: Helping Your College Student With Sibling Relationships . It has a lot of great tips for before your student leaves for school, once they’ve left and when they return home for a visit.

Here are some quick tips on how you can help your kids maintain a good Sibling Relationship:

-Include siblings when getting your kid ready for college.
-Help your children unbottle their emotions and share their feelings.
-Suggest your college student spend some quality time with their siblings.

The one tip I came across that I wish my mom had thought to do is this: Ask a sibling to help prepare a care package to send to their college sibling. My mom’s care packages were honestly great, but one from my brother would have been pretty cool, too. If he had chosen items to include in the package, I think he’d put some of his favorite CDs in there, a funny movie, some candy we loved growing up, a new pair of headphones and possibly a silly toy or something random to remind me of when we were crazy kids.

So when one of your kids moves away, there’s no reason to think that’s the end of their close sibling bond. If they make the effort to keep in contact—and you’re there to remind them if they start slacking—I’ll bet you’ll see their bond grow even stronger. This can definitely help your child deal with the changes that your college going kid will bring about in the family dynamics.

Helicopter Parents: Are You Helping or Hindering Your College Kid?

You’ve heard it on the news, read about it in books, seen it all over websites—the term “helicopter parents” has really taken off in the last few years. It’s often used to describe parents who are extremely involved in their child’s life, and “hover” over everything they do. Some say this type of parenting works, while others think it puts children at a disadvantage when they journey out on their own into the real world.

What do you think? If parents are so intimately connected to every aspect of their kid’s academic and social life as they grow up, what will happen when that child goes off to college? And, how do helicopter parents deal with their kids being so far out of reach?

An article we came across from msnbc.com highlights a study conducted in 2010 that took a closer look at the effects helicopter parenting had on college students. The study, done by researchers at Keene College in New Hampshire, found that these students were more vulnerable, anxious and self-conscious than those students who didn’t have helicopter parents.

Being overly dependent and more neurotic are probably not the qualities most parents try to cultivate in their college kids, so that makes helicopter parenting a huge problem, right? Well, not so fast… The National Survey of Student Engagement found children of helicopter parents reported more satisfactory college experiences and did better in areas of critical thinking and writing.

Wanting your child to do well and succeed in life is every parent’s aspiration. Yet, according to many college professors and administrators, the helicopter parents take this a little too far by constantly swooping in and solving their kids’ problems.

From calling professors about grades to contacting RAs about roommates, parents are getting more and more involved in college life. If you think this sounds a lot like you, you may want to take a step back and find a balance between guidance and interference.

It just makes sense: The more you do for your kid now, the less they’ll know how to do for themselves later. Learning from their mistakes may seem like a cliché, but all clichés are grounded in truth. College is a time for your child to take everything you’ve taught them, and use it to overcome challenges on their own. As one college parent put it: You’ve got to let go to let them succeed.

Do you consider helicopter parents a good or bad thing? Let us know what you think.

Fight Back Against College Age Cyber Bullying

In light of recent, tragic events around the country, I thought it fitting to address cyber bullying—and my personal experience with it in college. College age bullying is under-researched and under-reported, but it’s a widespread problem today.

“Hey Tiff…umm…I don’t want to be a buzz kill, but…do you know that someone posted something about you on Juicy Campus?” I froze, and my heart sank. JuicyCampus.com was a website that allowed users to anonymously post gossip about college students across the United States—and vote on which posts they found “juiciest” or most provocative.

Timothy Chester, chief information officer of Pepperdine University, said the purpose of Juicy Campus was to create a “’virtual bathroom wall’ for abusive, degrading and hateful speech.”

I left my friend’s apartment early that night. I checked the website as soon as I got home, and was mortified to see what some nameless liar had said about me. This wasn’t fair and I couldn’t even fight back. My (full) name was being slandered in a very public place, and I had no way to stop it.

To my relief, Juicy Campus was shut down a few months after this incident—and its rumors disappeared along with it. So why then am I sharing this with you? Because a similar site crept up in its place. And you need to know how you can reduce your kid’s chances of falling victim to cyber bashing.

If you’re a parent, the best advice is to talk to your children about cyber bullying1.

I found a great website about how to help your kid avoid becoming a victim of online harassment. Some of the key points to remind your child about include:

  • To be careful about what they put on the Internet. Chances are, it can’t be retrieved once it’s out there.
  • To take and post pictures knowing that a picture is forever.
  • To be aware of open computers that could be watching (and recording) everything they’re doing.
  • To not be tricked by a webcam without a visible recording light—it may still be on.
  • To refrain from putting personal information on social networking sites like Facebook.

Bullying isn’t just a problem on the grade school playground or in the high school locker room—some bullying carries over in to college2.

If your son or daughter feels threatened by online harassment, urge them to tip-off their school’s silent witness program (if it has one) or alert Public Safety. But if you think they need help with the long term emotional effects of bullying, suggest they make appointments with a doctor and therapist so they can receive treatment. You can read more about those long-term effects of bullying provided by MentalHelp.net.

1Organization: Talk to Your Kids About Cyber Bullying. (2010). http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/news/sci_tech/cyber-bullying-parent-involvement-10-1-2010

2Asking K-Statf Freshmen About Bullying Won’t Just Help College Students: Survey Results to Help Kansas Schools Combat Bullying Effectively. (2008).http://www.he.k-state.edu/news/2008/06/04/asking-k-state-freshmen-about-bullying-wont-just-help-college-students-survey-results-to-help-kansas-schools-combat-bullying-effectively/